Forced Blood Test in Idaho DUI Case Tossed

     COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho (CN) – Police need a warrant to draw the blood of suspected drunken drivers, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled.
     The ruling comes in the case against Deninis Halseth whom a Washington state trooper arrested for driving a truck with a license plate reported stolen.
     Halseth had fled to Washington after evading a Post Falls officer, according to the ruling.
     The court says Halseth objected but that a Washington hospital drew blood samples from Halseth, which were then used to charge him with, among other things, driving under the influence.
     Halseth moved to suppress the results of the blood draws in Kootenai County District Court, Idaho, alleging that the warrantless draws violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure.
     Idaho Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Jorgensen argued that its implied-consent law says people who drive on public roads have already given irrevocable consent to blood draws.
     Idaho First District Court Judge Benjamin Simpson granted the motions to suppress, citing the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision Missouri v. McNeely.
     “It would be antithetical to interpret the McNeely opinion as permitting warrantless blood draws simply because a state has legislation that allows such an action,” Simpson wrote.
     The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed on Dec. 2, saying Idaho’s implied-consent law is a categorical exception that was erroneously applied to the Fourth Amendment.
     “We hold that an implied consent statute such as Washington’s and Idaho’s does not justify a warrantless blood draw from a driver who refuses to consent … or objects to the blood draw,” Justice Daniel Eismann wrote for the court.
     Deputy state appellate public defender Justin Curtis heralded this as “a big decision” in an interview with the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash.
     “It’s going to affect a fair number of cases that are already in the pike,” Curtis added. “At least since 2007, it’s been the law in Idaho.”
     Since McNeely, the Idaho State Patrol (ISP) has made it a standard practice to obtain a search warrant for a blood draw in DUI investigations, ISP spokeswoman Teresa Baker said.
     Justices Jim Jones, Joel Horton, Chief Justice Roger Burdick and Senior Justice Pro Tem Jesse Walters rounded out the panel.
     Chief Justice Burdick had penned the Oct. 29 decision that threw out the evidence of a warrantless blood draw on Micah Wulff, stemming from an October 2012 stop that revealed a 0.217 blood alcohol content.
     A sheriff’s deputy had initiated the stop after observing Wulff exceeding the speed limit by 25 to 35 mph, according to the ruling.

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